A business with CSR in its foundations

Barnes was part of the team that built the new HQ and food bank for FIND Picture: Pagepix

Barnes was part of the team that built the new HQ and food bank for FIND Picture: Pagepix - Credit: Pagepix

Sue Wilcock speaks to Barnes Construction’s director, Mark Bailey, to find out more about corporate social responsibility.

Once seen as a simple add-on to core business activity, corporate social responsibility (CSR) has become a ‘must’ for companies that want to do well. And few have recognised the need to give back more than Barnes Construction, which sees its local community as its bedrock.

As director Mark Bailey explained: “One of our strengths is our family ethos. We see the local communities where we work, live and socialise as central to our culture. The people that work at Barnes care about what they do, how they do it and how they are regarded by those they value.

“Yet, our stance on social values isn’t just a ‘tick box exercise’ to win more work. From day one when David Barnes started the business in 1978, he encouraged the notion that a genuine desire to support society would bring plenty of benefits, including positive community relationships, improved productivity, better staff retention and the potential for good news stories.”

So, from those early years, as well as continually improving its ethical and environmental working practices, Barnes has taken part in local community fundraising and wellbeing initiatives and supported both its people and supply chain to grow and develop.

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“In the past three years, we have taken part in over 30 fundraising events, raising over £130k for national and local charities and community groups,” Mark continued.

“Beneficiaries have included St Elizabeth Hospice, Arthur Rank Hospice, the Bumblebee Charity, Suffolk Wildlife Trust, Help for Heroes and The Orwell Panthers; the list goes on.

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“More recently, we have supported the High Sheriff’s Awards, and we were delighted to be part of the team that built the new headquarters and food bank for FIND; a vital resource that supports thousands of adults and children in poverty across Suffolk.”

Providing community organisations with expertise free of charge is another element to giving back and Barnes has undertaken much pro bono work, as well as also playing a part within the groups that represent the wider construction industry such as the SJCC and Interact.

A group that can often be overlooked when delivering CSR activity is the supply chain. Yet, Barnes feels that nurturing respectful professional relationships, not only improves the quality of work, but also enhances collaboration. So, it takes a proactive approach to meeting other SMEs, encouraging them to join their supply chain, and supporting them with training and advice.

Barnes has also woven into its activities things such as ethical purchasing policies for timber, recycling newspapers and reducing water use and carbon emissions wherever it can. And, as well as increasing carbon neutral construction knowledge among its teams, it benchmarks its carbon footprint from head office to site level.

However, one of the things Barnes is most proud of is its investment in attracting young people into the construction industry and supporting their employees in their professional growth and development.

Mark explained: “We have always been a keen investor in management trainees and apprentices. In fact, the greatest testament to our success is that over 60% of our current staff, managers and directors have come through these routes, including myself.

“Our training and education engagement programmes are led by fellow director, Simon Severwright, who is also another management trainee that has progressed through our business since joining us from Thurleston High School.

“The Barnes team is continually promoting the construction industry to students and young people; from providing curriculum support and being involved in skills fairs and careers events at schools and colleges, to offering work placements.”

Finally, and a most important element to the ethos of ‘giving back’ is about keeping employees engaged, and Barnes feels they deliver here too.

“We strive to give people a positive workplace, including development opportunities and time off to study, as well as acknowledging milestones and achievements,” Mark said.

“There has always been a commitment to bring on and nurture ‘home-grown’ talent in the business and Barnes has remained committed to its programme regardless of the economic climate; recruiting throughout downturns in the economy and refusing to allow trading conditions to dictate its training policy.

“Barnes is proud of its record in CSR, and sees it as a responsibility to continue to provide support and employment opportunities within the communities that it operates in.”

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